Monday, October 2, 2017

Marvel's Inhumans Pilot Episodes ("Behold... The Inhumans" and "Those Who Would Destroy Us") REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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One unfortunate result of Inhumans’ Friday night time slot is that there are so many things that happen on Friday nights.  I don’t know about you, but my wife and I often go out for dinner on Friday nights, which would conflict with trying to watch this show when it initially airs.  Fortunately, we bought a VCR a couple years ago to record Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when we couldn’t watch it on Tuesday night.  So instead of Friday night, I watched Inhumans on Saturday.  For as long as there is MCU TV content on Friday nights, I think I will plan to review it the following Monday.

With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about the TV Inhumans premiere.  If you remember my “review” of the IMAX premiere, it really wasn’t that great in terms of IMAX content.  A lot of the effects looked horrendously computer-generated, the camera work wasn’t that much different from a normal TV show, and it just didn’t feel like it fit on that medium.  However, I have been adamant for an entire month in stating that we need to actually see what it looks like on TV before sounding the death knell for this show.

So does it redeem itself on the small screen?

In a word, YES.

Remember those effects that looked ridiculously cheesy on an IMAX screen?  (Probably not, if you took my advice!)  Well, they actually look just fine on TV.  Inhumans isn’t going to be winning any awards for their effects for this effort—at least not for the still-obviously-CGI exterior shots of the city of Attilan, which are still a little too clean and obviously “rendered” to be believable—but they are in line with effects from other live-action TV series.  Obviously there are TV shows with better effects (Arrow and The Flash both come to mind, though I’m several season behind on both), but there are also shows with much worse effects.  I wish Attilan looked better, but it doesn’t irritate me as much on my own TV screen as it did on an IMAX screen.  As far as the moon goes, in IMAX it looked painful; on TV it looks just fine.

As for the rest of the pilot, it’s just as good as I remember it being in IMAX.  I’m still not a huge fan of Triton—Mike Moh does not appear comfortable in the character yet—but I love all the other characters.  In fact, I wasn’t thrilled with Anson Mount’s portrayal of Black Bolt at first, but I definitely warmed up to it on the second viewing.  He is amazing at emoting silently, with a wide range of emotions, from happiness to anger and confusion, and everywhere in between.

Maximus and his scheming gets expanded a bit in this cut over what was in the IMAX version, as do the visions of the new Inhuman (Brunaja?  I can’t find the correct spelling anywhere online).  It doesn’t expand on the relationship between Black Bolt and Maximus before the coup, but it does flesh out more of the initial steps that Maximus took before the actual coup.  I hope that his relationship with Black Bolt gets some more depth over the course of the miniseries; Karnak accuses Black Bolt of being too “soft” on Maximus, but we don’t get to see much of how he is being “soft” or why.  Perhaps they will go into more detail on the deaths of their parents, and that will explain some of their history.

Easily my favorite characters on the series so far are Karnak and Gorgon, both individually and together.  I love how well they play off each other—Karnak is very cerebral (and something of a downer); Gorgon is a brawler (and more upbeat).  I like that the pilot pushes both of them out of their comfort zone I some way.  The biggest issue I found story-wise with the pilot is when Karnak falls down the cliff (when his power would seem ideal for avoiding such an accident).  I understand the desire to “take away” his powers temporarily, but there had to be a better way to do it.

One final note on the effects:  I was concerned that all the effects would be campy on a TV budget, but they all look fine to me.  Medusa’s hair is about what I was expecting from a TV budget.  Crystal, Karnak, and Gorgon are just fine.  The effects for Lockjaw are really good—and unique as compared to the last teleporter we saw (including a different method for the teleportation).

There were several added scenes in the TV cut of the pilot (as we already knew).  A couple scenes add another character on Earth who will (presumably) become important later in the series as someone who has discovered the secret of the Inhumans.  I understand why those scenes were omitted from the theatrical cut; it distracts slightly from the story at hand for the sake of building up the season arc.  The two additional Maximus scenes (in which he confronts the leader of the Genetic Council and the Council as a whole) helped to expand on the new Inhuman’s abilities, as well as Maximus’ machinations.  Of the two, I think the second one should have been included in the theatrical cut, considering that the vision that preceded it was included.

Four final notes:

  • The portrayal of Black Bolt and Maximus’ parents’ deaths in the pilot differs heavily from the comics.  In the comics Black Bolt inadvertently kills them when he destroys a Kree ship that crashes into the building where they are.  I think I like how ambiguously this portrays Black Bolt.
  • The new Inhumans at the beginning of the pilot both appear to be based on characters from Inhumans Vol. 2 #2 (1998).  Tonaja is a girl who is given wings and the power of flight (and green skin) and becomes a member of the Royal Guard.  Woz is a boy whose transformation is hidden from everyone by Maximus, who intends to use his ability to teleport through reflective surfaces as part of his (current) plot to overthrow Black Bolt.
  • There is a discrepancy between the portrayal of Terrigenesis on Inhumans and what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. already established:  the chrysalis.  There are several possible explanations for this:  weakened Inhuman genetics on Earth cause the chrysalis to form, the atmosphere on Earth reacts with Terrigen to form it, Attilan has purer crystals than found on Earth, the glass box used on Attilan replaces the chrysalis…  Will they explain it?  Maybe.
  • In the comics, Maximus’ power is mental manipulation.  What if he isn’t really a human, but has been (subconsciously) using mental manipulation to make himself appear to have human genetics?  Food for thought.

So there you have it!  Is Inhumans the best new TV show out there?  No, probably not.  Having said that, it is certainly interesting and deserves to continue—for its entire first season, if nothing else.  I want to see more of these characters, and especially the dynamics between them.  Once we have seen the entire first season, it may be good enough to receive a second season (as showrunner Scott Buck hopes), or it may not.  But until then, I think it needs to continue.

But if it does get canceled, I don’t think I will be alone in blaming the IMAX release for having created unattainable expectations for the pilot.

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